29 Projects with Brazil, China and South Korea

In the context of the bilateral programmes, the SNSF is funding another 29 projects to the tune of 8.5 million Swiss francs. A study has confirmed the positive impact of the programmes.

The Swiss bilateral programmes are aimed at promoting and strengthening scientific cooperation between Switzerland and non-European countries that show high research potential. Since 2013, the SNSF has managed these calls for proposals on behalf of the federal government. The projects generally run for four years, and financing on the Swiss side covers similar costs as in national projects. The last three calls were with Brazil, China and South Korea. The SNSF and its partner organisations in the three countries have selected 29 projects for funding. The SNSF will contribute 8.5 million francs to the Swiss sub-projects.

Climate change in the Amazon region

In the context of the Brazil call, a two-stage evaluation procedure was tested. Researchers were invited to submit proposals on the topics water as well as IT and communication technology. 50 pre-proposals were submitted. Of those, 33 consortia were invited to submit a full proposal. The SNSF and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) selected eight projects for funding. Another four projects are being financed by regional funding organisations in Brazilian states. One of the projects is run by researchers at the University of Bern and the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in the capital Brasilia. Together they will analyse to what extent climate change is exacerbating or influencing extreme weather events and their impact on ecosystems in the Amazon region and the Cerrado savanna.

Antibiotic resistance

In 2019, the SNSF launched a second call with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). The topics were earth sciences as well as air quality in the context of health. Demand was lower than expected and only 14 proposals were submitted. In total, the joint evaluation panel selected five projects for funding. In one project, researchers of ETH Zurich are exploring the airborne spread of antibiotic resistance in collaboration with colleagues from the Beijing Agro-Biotechnology Research Center.

Molecules and chemical reactions

The call with South Korea covered topics such as molecular physics, digital health and advanced materials. In total, 49 applications were submitted. The SNSF and the National Research Foundation of South Korea (NRF) selected 12 projects for funding. A project of the University of Basel and the Daejeon Institute of Science and Technology will explore the links between the structure of molecules and chemical reactions.

New calls with India and Vietnam

After a successful call with India in 2018, the SNSF will be launching a second call in June 2020. It will focus on "system medicine", including projects dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. As demand was relatively high last time, the budget of the second call has been increased. In total, the SNSF will fund between 15 and 20 projects with a duration of three to four years.

In the second half of 2020, the SNSF expects to launch a bilateral call for proposals with Vietnam. Details about the timeline, the process and the thematic focus will follow nearer the time.

"Significant added value"

A study published by the Swiss government in March 2020 draws some very encouraging conclusions. According to the Danish authors of the study, the bilateral programmes have generated "significant added value for Swiss researchers and their institutions", for example by creating strong international networks in the long term. The number of joint scientific publications has increased significantly. The programmes have also broadened the range of topics explored in bilateral research. In addition, they have promoted collaboration between the SNSF and funding agencies in other countries. Overall, the study finds that science diplomacy has been strengthened.

The Swiss bilateral programmes promote collaborations with researchers in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa and South Korea.